Lets face it - if you're not having effective conference calls in your business you're probably not getting things done. With the decline of travel and the rise of the telecommuter, hosting conference calls are the best way to stay in touch with employees and customers to keep them updated on changes or notifications about a project. However, there is a resistance to conference calls that can easily be overcome by following a few simple rules. These are the things we have seen working for our clients and wanted to share them with you if you struggle with attendance or effectiveness with your conferences.
- Start on Time - The most effective way to derail your entire conference call is by not starting it on time because it takes advantage of the time of the others that joined the call. You don't want to waste the time of employees, co-workers, and even customers who have taken time out of their daily work activities to join your conference. A few minutes here and there shouldn't be a problem but when you keep people waiting for ten or fifteen minutes, it bothers them and they are less likely to pay attention once the conference gets started.
- Ask Questions & Get Feedback - Once you say something like and if there are any questions we'll handle those after the call you're giving permission to the attendees to give the conference less than their full attention. As long as they can follow up after to get clarification they will feel like they can multitask through the conference. Prompt for feedback throughout the call and ask specific open ended questions to specific people. There is a big difference between Is everyone okay with our new projections? and Dan, can you tell me what changes we can expect to see?
- If You Hand Out Information Before Don't Read Directly From It - Anything you give out prior to the conference call should be a guide and not a copy of your speech. Once participants realize that they have a script in front of them, they will go back to doing something else and will half listen to the brilliant things you have to say.
- Show Participants Respect - If you're asking them to refrain from checking email, taking a nap, or playing Angry Birds, you should be willing to do the same. Turn off your own email and give the conference call your full attention by chiming in, giving feedback, and asking questions to help further the collaborative spirit of the conference call.
- End on Time - You have to give out a time to be sure that participants block out the right amount to join the conference but there is an idea of well, you're all here so we might as well discuss... and it shouldn't be like that. The truth is that when you give out a specific ending time, people will make plans for immediately following the conference call. End at the time you sent out or kindly notfiy participants on the invitation to schedule a little padding into their day, as the conference might run over.
Sadly, the truth is that there is little that can be done to solve the meetings suck feelings that tend to swarm around conference calls, but what you do have the power to control is how well you respect the time of your participants. Once you carry on a few effective conference calls, people will feel less trepidation about joining your conferences, because they know you're going to do what you promised. What are your rules for hosting effective conference calls?